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Clean Lake, Dirty Lake

A Story about our very own Lake Districts.

A story about the dreaded pipe that fed out into the Ravine Pond.

As Common kids we would often disappear into the dark recesses of this fascinating underground netherworld of trickling water, an echoing cavernous kingdom that just beckoned Common kids into its inviting wide mouth, to explore...but not by yourself...always with a mate; in fact, the more the better. This collective courage enabled us to waddle the full distance up into the pipe's considerable length. An iron grill barred us adventurous kids from exploring further into its depths. Which was just as well. We would still be travelling that pipe if it were not for that grill preventing us kids venturing any further. With the sounds of water gushing mysteriously down into other inviting junctions of yet more pipes, and a bunch of wondrous Common kids, encouraging each other, yes, it was indeed a good thing there was a very strong barred grill situated there.
There were many large spiders that lived in this dark concrete cave and you tried to keep your head down as you waddled along so as to prevent your hair brushing the cobwebs above and collecting a large spider hitching a ride on you! I was very interested in the large brown moths that also lived in the dark recesses of the pipe. They hung in the crevices between where the pipes were joined together, along with the spiders. Being nocturnal, they would hang around in the pipe's dark recesses during the day, flying out at night. They were a very large moth and had a black hard shell-like covering on their back. I wonder if they were a small species of bat? Nah, I doubt it.
This pipe fed out into the ravine pond. We called this pond the ‘Dirty Lake’.
In those days it was a smelly, muddy pond. It had an iron railing fence that surrounded it. To get into the lake you had to climb over this railing. Once in the lake area you could walk around and through the trees and shrubs that grew all around the lake.
The lake was in two sections with an island at its centre. You could get onto the island by balancing along the dividing concrete partition that divided the lake.
This was where many a Common kid had his extra bath for the week!

You were never a Common kid unless you were baptised in the dirty lake.
And what a baptism! Water was never a Common kids favourite element. At least, not to actually get flipping immersed in the 'orrible stuff!   To play around it, sure. To paddle in it, sure. To catch frogs, king newts and sticklebacks out of, sure. But to get fully into the stuff: no way!   But there wasn't a Common kid that didn't fall into the 'orrible, stinking, smelly, dark  and very cold waters of the dirty lake. It was a magnet that attracted us kids. It eventually got you. You either slipped, fell, or were 'accidentally' pushed; it always got you in the end. In fact, more than once did I find myself floundering in its stinking muddy waters and having to trudge home, sloshing and dripping, cold and saturated, to a telling off, clip round the ear and then a warm change of clothes and a hot cup of cha.
The other 'Lake' was the 'clean lake'. This lake was the paddling pool. The paddling pool was a shallow, blue painted pool that us Common kids enjoyed our very first under water dives in. Being at least around about a whole 12 inches deep, on a good day, this was quite adventurous and very exciting for a tiny 24-inch Common kid to sit in, to splash in and, with much fear, and gathering much courage, to actually put your head right into and underneath its clear chlorinated-smelling waters.

On a hot summer's day it was a great trip out with your bigger brothers, to splash, run and swim, and just sit in, and even to watch it change colour around you, to a cloudy yellow colour!!!...in this great expanse of water, our paddling pool.

Parents could sit and watch or have a chat and a cuppa with a bit of fruit cake or a sticky bun at the little café near the offices and the attendant next to the pool.
We would get dried and dressed in the open changing shed, feeling rather embarrassed at the rather public display of our bits and pieces!
Another good use of the 'clean lake' was to sail your model yacht on it. Especially so on a good windy day, when it would cut through the choppy water at a great speed. I would set the little metal rudder on its stern and send it on a great arching sail through the crashing waves. It would lean right over, its white sails nearly swamped, but its heavy metal keel held it up against the strong wind......Such were the simple adventures of us wee Common kids, enjoying our very own special 'Lake Districts'. 

By Colin Weightman, always a Common kid.

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